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"People of a Feather" - another day hunting ducks, collecting feathers, hating dams

Film observes the Inuit peoples and their new life with a hydroelectric dam

Featuring groundbreaking footage from seven winters in the Arctic, People of a Feather takes you through time into the world of Inuit on the Belcher Islands in Hudson Bay.

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My recommendation last week (The Broken Circle Breakdown) was an excellent film, but also a very depressing piece of cinema. It was certainly an odd way to start the New Year, but I didn't take it as a taste of things to come. Let's see what this week's film is about. ... What the ...?! Ecological trauma?! Displaced indigenous people?! Dead baby ducks?! All right, I'm not saying that there's a conspiracy in Hollywood to repeatedly show me well-made films about subjects that sadden and/or anger me, I'm just saying that I wouldn't be surprised if next week's film was directed by Werner Herzog and starred Justin Bieber as the leader of an illegal dogfighting ring.

People of a Feather is writer-director Joel Heath's feature film debut. A newcomer to the world of cinema, Heath's only prior credits include some production and technical work on the 2011 documentary series Frozen Planet and 2006's Emmy Award-winning Planet Earth. However, despite this being his maiden voyage in the director's chair, the skills he picked up working behind the scenes are on full display here.

Imagine this scenario: You're happy. You have everything you could really need or want and if things continued this way for the rest of your days, you'd call it a pretty good life. Then, early one morning, you wake up to discover a hydroelectric dam in front of your house. It's big, it's loud and it's totally unwelcome, (like Roseanne Barr, only made of concrete). Every aspect of your life is negatively impacted by this thing. Running low on groceries? Good luck getting to the store; the dam's blocking your car in. Want to do a little gardening or mow the lawn? Your yard's flooded. Need to feed your pets? You haven't seen Genghis Dog or Chairman Meow in days. God only knows what happened to them.

I know that scenario sounds ridiculous, but that's essentially the situation with which the Inuit people of Canada's Hudson Bay have to contend. Their lives followed the same day-to-day routine for hundreds of years before the network of hydroelectric dams powering much of the Eastern United States disrupted their entire way of life. The dams altered the ice flows, ocean currents and the very makeup of the water in Hudson Bay. This radical ecological shift threatens, among other things, the area's native eider ducks. Their thick feathers, the warmest in the world, allow both the eider and the Inuit by extension to survive the brutal Hudson Bay winters. Sadly, their unique feathers offer the eider duck little protection against the influx of freshwater into their native saltwater habitat, bringing both the eiders' and the Inuit's future in Hudson Bay into question.

People of a Feather is a film about the people and things that get ground underfoot by the "March of Progress." Can something that leaves this level of destruction in its wake truly be called progress? They say you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

But is this an omelet anyone really wants to eat?

PEOPLE OF A FEATHER, 2 and 6:55 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14, The Grand Cinema, 606 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, $4.50-$9, 253.593.4474

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